The current regulatory environment in the United States is creating barriers for institutions attempting to enter the crypto space, says VanEck Head of Digital Assets Research Matthew Sigel. But this could soon change with the next presidential election.

“The Biden Administration does not want banks and brokers to touch digital assets,” Sigel told Decrypt in an interview at the VanEck Southern California Blockchain Conference, co-hosted by Blockchain USC. "They are using explicit and verbal jawboning to achieve that goal,” he said. "Jawboning" refers to tactics that attempt to influence or pressure by persuasion rather than force or authority.

The outcome of the next presidential election, in which President Joe Biden once again squares off against former President Donald Trump, could have a significant impact on the cryptocurrency industry, as well as other sectors of the U.S. economy. Van Eck’s Sigel suspects that a Biden defeat would be a boon for digital assets and their broader adoption.

“If the presidency changes, we’re going to see a lot more support for this industry,” Sigel said.


Bitcoin is currently at the start of what appears to be its next bull run, just one week removed from setting a new all-time high price above $73,000. Much of the action appears to be driven by renewed interest in Bitcoin from retail investors following the historic launch of spot Bitcoin ETFs in the U.S. market.

Sigel said VanEck was early among asset managers to Bitcoin’s disruptive potential, leading the firm to pursue a Bitcoin ETF, a type of investment vehicle that allows buyers to gain exposure to Bitcoin without the need to buy and store the digital asset directly. But the Securities and Exchange Commission stymied those efforts, denying every Bitcoin ETF application that came before the agency over the last decade.

"We tried to get a Bitcoin ETF off the ground, but that was not going to happen," he said. "So, we started investing in ventures across the space to build relationships and knowledge."

VanEck first filed for a Bitcoin ETF in June 2018. It wasn't until January of this year that the SEC finally approved 10 spot Bitcoin ETFs for trading, including the VanEck Bitcoin Trust's "HODL" ETF.


"Now, we have a whole suite of products, including tokens, equities, and the [Bitcoin ETF]," Sigel said.

While Sigel did not name a particular office or agency in his rebuke of U.S. regulators, many in the cryptocurrency space, including SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce, have accused the SEC and Chair Gary Gensler of regulating by enforcement instead of providing a clear regulatory framework for crypto assets.

Gensler has received support from high-profile, anti-crypto Democrats such as Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and California Congressman Brad Sherman.

“The Commission has been loud and clear that crypto doesn’t get a pass for long-standing security laws that protect investors and ensure the integrity of our financial markets,” Warren said last year, speaking to the American Economic Liberties Project. “This is the right approach—the SEC has the right rules and the right experience, and Gary Gensler is demonstrating that he is the right leader to get the job done.”

Sigel said these tactics and stricter rules for publicly traded companies keep firms from dealing in cryptocurrency.

While some financial institutions have not considered adding Bitcoin to their regular investment offerings, like stocks and bonds, Sigel anticipates that financial advisors' views on digital assets for their clients may change as more firms reconsider Bitcoin.

"We're starting to observe more of these models doing work and beginning to think about adding Bitcoin, and I think that's the next leg of this bull market," Sigel said.

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